For those of you not familiar with Jasper Brinkley, I have a strong feeling that will soon change. This past March, the Arizona Cardinals signed Jasper Brinkley to a two year free agent contract. He had been courted by a number of teams, including the New York Giants. When he decided to make The Valley his home, there was not much fanfare, but that seems to track Brinkley.
After a successful college career at the University of South Carolina, Brinkley was not high on many draft boards. He had a pretty good combine before the 2009 NFL Draft, but his phone did not ring until the 5th round, when the Vikings selected him with the 150th overall pick.
Fortunately for Brinkley, he was mentored by E.J. Henderson when he joined the Vikings. He was given time to develop his pro game until the 13th week of the season, when Henderson, playing against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium, was injured. Brinkley started at inside linebacker for the remainder of the 2009 season and put up some respectable numbers. Brinkley then returned to a back-up role in 2010 and waited until 2012 to start with any regularity. During that time, he showed proficiency against the run, but questions remained about his ability to defend against the pass. In fact, he never recorded an interception in his four seasons with Minnesota.
So now you know why this free agent signing went fairly unnoticed during the offseason. But did you watch what head coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles have brought out of Brinkley during the recently completed preseason? Well, this guy who has put up goose eggs when it comes to interceptions in his career has not only shown anticipated strength against the run, but also recorded three interceptions. He seemed to have a nose for the ball. More importantly, he is a “presence” on the field. This is no easy task when you have the likes of Dockett, Campbell and Peterson in the same defensive huddle.
Viking fans were quick to say “good riddance” when Brinkley elected to leave Minnesota. I am here to say that it is possible that the Vikings abandoned ship just as Brinkley was on the brink of making a name for himself in the NFL. Jasper, as you bid farewell to the “Purple People Eaters,” I welcome you to the “Red Storm.”